Students write reflections on their experience of place in Sisters’ innovative IEE program. photo provided
Students write reflections on their experience of place in Sisters’ innovative IEE program. photo provided
Sisters IEE (Interdisciplinary Environmental Expedition) has been a shaping influence on many Sisters High School graduates. For most, it enhances their understanding and appreciation of the world they live in. For some, it has created a life path.

For Hogan Hernandez, now a student at University of Oregon, an IEE student in her junior year and IEE intern in her senior year, the experience helped to shape who she is and her hobbies, as well as leading to her summer job. During her high school career, Hernandez was heavily involved with sports and leadership activities and was always participating in something.

She took the IEE class in her junior year, and she said:

“I thought it was cool to get in the outside environment and learn things that pertain to basic life-applicable things outside of a classroom or textbook.”

During her experience as an intern, she found a passion during her time working with other students in outdoor education. She finds the connection of education and the outdoors is a beneficial way for students to learn in a new way and connect with their sense of place. Hernandez participated in the outdoor program in college and found her place within outdoor leadership and currently works for Ouzel Outfitters as a raft guide in the summer.

The IEE program has had an impact on many Sisters students that have gone on to work in environmental fields.

Eric Adler is CEO of Flume, where he helped create a water-saving sensor that allows for big cities and towns to track usage of water. It is also used in homes.

“IEE had a huge influence on me and taught me the importance of conservation and protecting the resources we have,” said Adler.

The connection of the teachers to the students is something that keeps graduates coming back to help out.

“We never have a shortage of people to help with expeditions because we have so many graduates who have bought into the program and believe in it and want to come back,” said teacher Samra Spear.

The relationship between students and instructors — where there is a connection to the place and small-town — is something somewhat unique to Sisters.

“IEE can really thrive in that kind of environment, and it works,” said Spear.

“The experience is not going to be the same for every kid, but we hope that we can help them get something out of it better than they had planned. The more you put in, the more you get out of a program like this,” she said.

For the future of the program, the instructors plan to adapt to whatever changes arise, and hope that it can be taken over by those who understand and appreciate the spirit of the program.

“Having past students taking over and looking at things a different way is a hugely important part of the program,” said Runco.

“We love to see those who know the spirit of the program coming back and maybe taking it over,” said Herron.